Always Trouble in Threes

It seems like there’s always something that needs doing when your house is on wheels. In reality, there was always something that needed doing when we lived in a sticks-and-bricks house too. Then there’s the old adage about trouble coming in threes. It might fit here.

A few days ago Donna opened one of the overhead cabinets in our living room. The doors are rectangular with the horizontal dimension being the longest. The doors have struts on either end that are spring loaded and through clever geometry they hold the door in the closed position. But when you raise the door open, the spring-loaded strut goes over-center and now it props the door open.

Well, when Donna opened the cabinet door one of the struts popped off. The pivot on the strut arm connects to the mounting tab with a small rivet. The rivet had worn through and popped off. The door wouldn’t stay open as only one strut didn’t have enough force to keep it open. Luckily I keep pop-rivets and a rivet tool on hand. Rivets are handy in many situations such as times when you can’t get to the back side of a fastener to put a nut on a bolt or when clearance is limited, which was the case here.

I unscrewed the other end of the strut and took it off the cabinet. Then I knocked the remains of the old rivet out with a punch and screwed the strut back in place. From there, it was simple matter of inserting the correct size pop-rivet and using the tool to pull the rivet mandrel until it popped off and the rivet was swaged in place.

Proper size pop-rivet in place in the pivot

Installation complete

Every tool box should should have an assortment of pop-rivets and an installation tool. I bought my tool at Harbor Freight. It has four interchangeable heads to accommodate various size rivets. It was inexpensive – I think I paid $20 or $30 for it and it’s come in handy many times.

We pulled out of our site at the Boulder County Fairgrounds around 9:30am Thursday morning – checkout time is 10am. Driving a big rig through this RV park is interesting to say the least. The roadways are narrow with tight turns and the trees need trimming. I managed to circumnavigate the park, exit and cross the street where I made a loop through the fairgrounds arena lot and lined up with the RV park dump station. We were on our way by 10am.

Driving east on the Diagonal Highway (CO119), I noticed we had a problem. My Jacobs Engineering Engine Compression¬†(Jake) brake wasn’t working. Then I noticed the Engine Maitenance light – equivalent to a Check Engine light on a car – was illuminated. It wasn’t flashing so I wasn’t too worried about it. Once we got on I-25, I realized I had no turbocharger boost. So, we were down on power and I had no Jake brake.

I pulled over and shut off the engine. I restarted and the light stayed on. I interrogated the system and found a Diagnostic Trouble Code (DTC) of 102 2. I didn’t know what that meant but felt no harm was being done and we were okay to proceed – albeit down on power and relying on service brakes only. We ran the gauntlet through Denver and continued south on our way to Colorado Springs.

South of Denver, past Castle Rock, it becomes hilly. We were mostly climbing but had a few downgrades. I had to approach the downgrades like I would in our old gasoline-powered coach – watch my speed and be careful not to overheat the service brakes. On the climbs, I did my best to keep the RPMs up and managed to maintain at least 55mph. As the hills became steeper, the turbocharger suddenly started working. We had power and the Jake brake was back in business too. The failure of both components was obviously related.

It couldn’t have started working at a better time. We crossed the summit north of Monument at 7,352 feet above sea level, then descended to Colorado Springs at an elevation of about 6,000 feet above sea level. Having the turbo boost for the climb to the summit and the Jake brake coming down was a relief. We found the Hotel Elegante and parked in the same spot we occupied last year.

Our dry camp at Hotel Elegante

Donna checked us in and found the rate was more reasonable than last year. Dry camping was $15/night and included the hotel amenities – like the swimming pool, laundry room and rest rooms.

I looked up the DTC 102 2 and found it meant there was an erratic signal from the intake manifold pressure sensor. With an implausible signal, the Engine Control Module (ECM) opened the wastegate on the Holset Turbocharger to bleed off all boost and we were running without turbo boost – this also disabled the Jake brake. Apparently we have a poor electrical connection somewhere between the pressure sensor and the ECM. This will probably be very difficult to find – especially since it’s intermittent and decided to start working fine again. I’ll start digging around – we’ll need all the boost we can get and the Jake brake too as we cross mountain ranges into New Mexico next week.

Later, I was dialing the satellite TV in when I noticed our house batteries were low – below 12 volts! I try to never let them go below 12.2-volts or 50% capacity as this will shorten their service life. It was puzzling. I had the inverter on since about 9:30am, but we can usually run the inverter for 14 hours or more without having to recharge. I started the generator to recharge the batteries. I let it run for a couple of hours before we went to bed.

This morning, I was up at 6am. I found our house batteries down to 12-volts again. I started the generator and saw it was only charging the battery bank at a rate of 50 amps. I would have expected to see a full 100 amp charge for the depleted batteries. I went out to check the battery bank and found we have a couple of corroded connections that are causing excessive resistance. I’ll have to find a shop with new cable end connectors and repair it ASAP. That was strike three.

We expect our friends Brad and Jessica Rice and family to arrive later this afternoon. We’re looking forward to seeing them again and also to a weekend of hot air balloon fun at the Labor Day Lift-Off! The forecast looks great for the weekend – temperatures in the mid to upper 80s in the afternoons – the mornings will be cool with temperatures in the low 70s – perfect for ballooning with clear skies and winds under 10mph.


***UPDATE – I just rechecked my house battery bank. The batteries weren’t discharged excessively. A loose connector was causing a voltage drop and that was what I was reading. I tightened all connectors and it’s reading 12.5V and when I turned on the generator it hit them with a 100 amp charge. All is good.

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